Paul Sackett

Origins and Consequences of Individual Differences: The History and Legacy of Psychology at Minnesota
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The career of Paul Sackett, PhD, embodies much of the best in the individual differences tradition as practiced in Minnesota.  Sackett has long considered how we can best measure human cognitive ability and personality in service of making predictions about how well individuals will perform in school, at work, in the military, and in life.  Sackett has embraced the methodological complexities of his field - from interviewer bias to appropriate use of one statistical model versus another - and he seeks to make clear how the science of measurement can be used for good, as well as ill,  in our society.  Sackett is recognized for his work by other psychologists, most recently he was awarded the Dunnette Prize, a $50,000 award from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology honoring "programmatic, significant and lasting contributions to understanding the causal nature of individual differences on behavior and performance." Since 2006 Sackett has held the Beverly and Richard Fink Distinguished Professorship of Psychology and Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota.

In 2004 Sackett documented the common misrepresentation of prior research on stereotype threat, the idea that individuals may perform badly in situations - notably standardized tests - where their larger identity group is 'stereotypically' identified as performing badly.  Sackett reminds his peers and the public that the performance differences on standardized tests between different identity groups exist beyond that accounted for by stereotype threat. Stereotype threat exists and matters, but it is not the whole story.  Sackett is deeply concerned about inequities and argues for seeking to understand factors driving such performance differences above and beyond stereotype threat.  If we turn our heads, we risk undermining the practice of science and we lose an important tool in understanding inequity in our society.  

Paul Sackett's Dunnette Prize winning address, 2020

Sackett, Paul R., Chaitra M. Hardison, and Michael J. Cullen. “On Interpreting Stereotype Threat as Accounting for African American-White Differences on Cognitive Tests.” American Psychologist 59, no. 1 (January 2004): 7–13.

Tomeh, Dana, and Paul Sackett. “On the Continued Misinterpretation of Stereotype Threat as Accounting for Black-White Differences on Cognitive Tests.” Personnel Assessment and Decisions 8, no. 1 (2022): 1-14.


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